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Anger among TDs as FAI fail to follow through with answers to Oireachtas questions

Jonathan O’Brien says the FAI’s failure to respond to him by their agreed deadline ‘shows the level of contempt they have for the Committee and the Oireachtas members.’

The FAI delegation arrives to Wednesday's meeting with an Oireachtas Committee on Sport.
The FAI delegation arrives to Wednesday's meeting with an Oireachtas Committee on Sport.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE FAI HAVE so far failed to respond to the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Sport to whom they had promised answers to questions they were unable to answer during Wednesday’s meeting. 

The FAI responded to eight separate questions at the meeting by saying they would return with an answer afterward, but no responses had been sent to the politicians who posed the questions or the office of Committee Chair Fergus O’Dowd as of 4.30pm on Friday afternoon. 

One of the questions was posed by Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien, who asked if the €100,000 bridging loan provided by then-CEO John Delaney in April 2017 had been recorded in the FAI’s monthly financial account.

President Donal Conway replied during the meeting that “I will establish that if I am given time”, and when asked by Deputy O’Brien how much time he needed, Conway replied “When I finish here this evening, I will get it sorted for the Deputy tomorrow.” 

Conway missed his self-imposed deadline, and speaking to The42 on Friday afternoon, Deputy O’Brien confirmed he has yet to be contacted by the FAI or Conway himself. 

“No they haven’t.

“To be honest I’m not expecting him to. He gave a commitment at the meeting that he’d get back to me the following day in relation to a financial question.

He hasn’t got back to me yet. I don’t think that’s really helpful. First of all he couldn’t answer the question for the Committee, which isn’t acceptable, and it certainly isn’t acceptable that he said he would get back to me the following day and doesn’t.

“It just shows the level of contempt they have for the Committee and the Oireachtas members, in my opinion.

“I’m not expecting them to be in touch anytime soon.” 

The FAI delegation did not specify a deadline for response to another seven outstanding questions. 

A second question posed by Deputy O’Brien, as to whether the stub relating to the €100,000 cheque lodged to the FAI’s main bank account by John Delaney in 2017 was part of the Association’s annual audit, has also yet to elicit a response from the Association, with Conway saying during the meeting that the FAI would “see whether we can revert with an answer.” 

Elsewhere, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has yet to receive a response to the questions he posed.

Deputy Rock asked three questions to which he was assured a response: whether the FAI discharge PAYE tax bills in a timely fashion; whether the FAI have always had an active tax clearance certificate; and how the FAI’s bank overdraft had been reduced from €1.9 million in 2015 to €1.5 million in 2017. 

On the latter of those questions, Donal Conway told Deputy Rock that he would attempt to get an answer for him during the next scheduled break in proceedings.

He didn’t manage to do so, although the FAI’s Finance Director Alex O’Connell did return with an answer to an earlier query by Deputy Rock in relation to what comprised a figure of €430,000 in the FAI’s accounts for 2016. 

Rock confirmed to The42 today that he had yet to receive a response from the FAI to his questions, and said that it is “unusual” that the FAI have yet to supply answers to the questions asked. 

Another question posed by TD Ruth Coppinger, asking “how many of the 20 clubs at senior level are entirely free of bank, director or shareholder debt” was responded to by interim CEO Rea Walshe, who said she would “check that and come back to the Deputy”. 

Coppinger confirmed to The42 that she has not heard from the FAI since Wednesday, and added that she’s “not holding her breath”. 

Elsewhere, TD Robert Troy confirmed to The42 that he has yet to receive a response to his question as to who in the FAI signed off on the publishing of an 18 March statement in relation to the €100,000 loan, which incorrectly claimed that “the Board of the FAI has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times”. 

When asked for a response, the FAI’s Director of Communications Cathal Dervan told Troy that he was “quite happy to come back to you with an answer to that question after I return to Abbottstown”, where the FAI offices are located. 

It was revealed during the Committee meeting that only three members of the Board – then-CEO John Delaney, then-president Tony Fitzgerald and then-Honorary Secretary Michael Cody – knew of the loan at the time it was issued by Delaney in April 2017. The rest of the Board were informed of the issue on 4 March this year. 

Finally, Senator Mark Daly confirmed to The42 that he has yet to receive a reply to his question of FAI Finance Director Alex O’Connell. 

Senator Daly asked O’Connell how much money was available in the 12 FAI bank accounts that are separate to the main account – which has an overdraft facility and required Delaney’s loan when a cash flow issue threatened to cause a breach of that overdraft – at the time the loan was made. 

O’Connell said he did not have the answer to hand, and said that “ It is an issue on which we could revert to the committee.” Daly responded in the meeting by saying that “it seems that the association will have to revert to the committee on many issues.”

The FAI did not respond to The42′s request for comment on Friday.  

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Gavin Cooney

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